Bold and Bald: How 4 Fierce Women Found Confidence While Experiencing Alopecia Hair Loss

They have the power, not their hair.

Alopecia affects around 6.8 million people in the United States and approximately 147 million people worldwide. This is a fairly common condition, so it’s surprising that it isn’t talked about more often. When dealing with Alopecia, people experience unwanted hair loss which can lead to lower self-esteem and less confidence. We spoke with four women to find out how they remain confident while experiencing Alopecia hair loss.

Keep scrolling to learn how you can find your confidence through hair loss and learn more about these women’s stories.

Unsure of what exactly Alopecia is? Keep scrolling to learn more about this condition.

What is Alopecia?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Alopecia is a disease that develops when the body attacks its own hair follicles (where hair grows from), which can cause hair loss anywhere on the body.” This can be caused by genetics or triggered by stress. There isn’t one solid reason why Alopecia may pop up, it can be different for everyone. However, there are different types of Alopecia ranging from small bald patches to more severe ones.

Different types of Alopecia are Alopecia Areata, Alopecia Totalis, and Alopecia Universalis. Overall, the word Alopecia is the medical term for bald, but each type indicates the severity. Areata means patchy baldness which can develop anywhere on your body, totalis means losing all of the hair on your scalp, and universalist means losing all of the hair on your entire body, which is also the rarest form.

Having to deal with hair loss at any point in your life is difficult no matter what the condition is. Learn how four women let their hair loss empower them.

Finding Inner Beauty During Hair Loss

women with alopecia wearing a head wrap
Oksana sporting a headwrap. Photo Credit: Oksanna Shulgach

Oksanna Shulgach is a 22-year-old woman who began experiencing Alopecia Areata in 2018. “In the beginning, I didn’t want to accept the fact my hair was falling out. I wanted to pretend there was no problem. When it started falling out more it was harder to hide it. Resisting acceptance gave me more anxiety, which wasn’t great for my mental health,” explained Shulgach. Over time, Shulgach realized it was finally time to embrace the change.

Once Shulgach accepted her hair loss, she leaned into her supportive friends and family to help her out. “They didn’t look at me or treat me any differently. I had a friend in 2019 who offered to shave my hair off. What helped me the most was realizing, you know this is the reality, my hair is falling out and I don’t know when it’ll come back,” shared Shulgach. This new reality led to Shulgach needing to redefine what beauty meant to her.

I had to find a way to redefine what beauty was in my mind.”

“I had to find a way to redefine what beauty was in my mind. Hair was such a big part, I loved coloring my hair and curling it, so not having that anymore felt like part of my identity was gone,” says Shulgach. She compared the experience to building a new mental muscle. She had to retrain what beauty meant to her, learning to look inward and focus on her personality and what comes from within rather than her outward appearance. While this may sound cheesy, we couldn’t agree more with Shulgach.

Using Her Platform to Inspire

women with alopecia wearing red shirt and black vest
Oksana proudly showing off her bald head. Photo Credit: Oksanna Shulgach

Throughout her Alopecia journey, Shulgach discovered that there was a gap missing on social media when it came to talking about Alopecia. “I looked at the social media platforms out there and there was a lot of information about Alopecia education, but when I looked at the personal pages of people who had Alopecia it was provocative a lot of the time. I didn’t think that was the right approach since it was focusing on the outward appearance,” says Shulgach.

During this time, Shulgach connected with a mom through a mutual friend whose daughter was 14 and going through severe hair loss issues from Alopecia. “She was going through what I was going through but was so much younger than me. I wanted to do everything I could to make her feel confident,” shares Shulgach. This, combined with the gap in social media is what inspired Shulgach to create her Instagram page. Her page shares her journey and lifestyle while having Alopecia, but also provides an educational component. She explained, “The goal was to create a page that young girls can look up to and realize you don’t need to show off your body to prove you’re beautiful.”

Feeling Free While Bald

cayla-harder-alopecia
Harder showing that you don’t need hair to feel beautiful. Photo Credit: Cayla Harder, @ihatetomhuynh, @littlemonsterz07

Cayla Harder is a 23-year-old model who found out she had Alopecia at just 13 years old. “I used to be all about my hair. I had had thick hair below my butt and I almost identified myself with that. When I went to a haircut place and the stylist said, do you know you have some bald spots,” explained Harder. She left feeling crushed and later went to a dermatologist who told her she might lose all her hair.

Harder explained how significant stress from a car accident further triggered her Alopecia and her hair began falling out so much faster to the point she started wearing wigs. “I never wanted to shave it off because I had done treatments before where a little bit of my hair started growing back when I bald spots, so I was like what if I shave it off and it starts growing again. It was basically a security blanket,” shares Harder.

I remember looking in the mirror and I could not stop smiling.”

It was Harder’s brother who pushed her to finally take the leap and shave her hair off. “I was looking and put makeup on and I remember looking in the mirror and I could not stop smiling. It was so much better than I could’ve imagined. I was locked on the idea that it was bad and ugly, but when I got rid of the excess stuff and you could see my face, it wasn’t that bad,” shares Harder.

Following her realization, Harder decided to get candid on her social media and post a few selfies showing off her new bold look. “I put a whole caption explaining what I was dealing with and how I was hiding behind wigs in high school. I got a great response from people which opened up a whole new world for me,” says Harder.

Harder was then approached by the photographer who did her Senior portraits to do a photoshoot showing off her new bald look. “I really got a whole new feeling about myself as being a bald woman. It was hard to see myself as beautiful and feminine. When I saw these photos I realized I was beautiful and I started gaining my confidence back,” shares Harder. This experience also helped skyrocket her modeling career where her look was celebrated for being different.

Inspiring Herself and Others Through Alopecia Hair Loss

cayla harder at golden gate bridge
You don’t always have to wear a wig or show off your bald head, play around with head scarfs! Photo Credit: @Cayla Harder

Once Harder shared her story on Instagram, she was inspired to start a YouTube channel to show people that just because she was losing her hair, she wasn’t any different than anyone else. Throughout her YouTube journey, she ended up teaching herself a very important lesson in addition to helping so many young women.

“I was trying to give advice about confidence and dating with Alopecia and I was telling people they needed to embrace themselves and let themselves shine through, and I was turning around and putting a wig on my head. I was like this is so hypocritical,” explains Harder. To break this feeling, in college, Harder challenged herself to go one day without wearing her wig to school. After that, her wigs were history. “I told people who subscribed to me that you’re helping me more than you ever know,” says Harder. No matter what you’re going through, sharing your story online is brave and can be so helpful to people. However, it’s incredible how in turn, you can learn such an important lesson from the people you’re inspiring.

Using Extracurricular Activities to Cope

women with alopecia
Ebony showing off her bald head. Photo Credit: Ebony Jean

Ebony Jean is a beauty influencer and content creator who uses her platform to bring awareness to Alopecia. She was diagnosed at just 4 years old and didn’t fully understand the extent of her condition until the beginning of grade school.

While Jean has fully embraced her bald look and uses her platform to bring awareness to Alopecia, her journey hasn’t been easy. “It’s been difficult and stressful. My family and I had to make several adjustments so I could have a life of normalcy,” says Jean. In addition to this, she also experienced quite a bit of bullying throughout the school. “My mom had to make several trips and phone calls to educators to explain what Alopecia was. I went home crying almost every week because of how rude the kids were. To make matters worse, some of the adults harassed me,” shares Jean. We can’t imagine how difficult it must’ve been to go through this at such a young age, however, leaning into her extracurricular activities helped her deal with the tension at school.

My mom always taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and embrace who I am and not let hair define my person.”

To cope with the bullying Jean experienced in school, she turned to extracurriculars, like art and even summer camps she would go to growing up. Jean also turned to her family and friends, especially her mom. “My mom always taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and embrace who I am and not let hair define my person,” explains Jean. We couldn’t agree more with her outlook on the situation. While it’s exciting to play around with different hairstyles, your hair doesn’t define who you are as a person.

Sharing Her Alopecia Journey

woman with alopecia wearing a hat
Play around with your look by adding a hat. Photo Credit: Ebony Jean

Jean’s experience with bullying helped empower her to start using her social media for good. When Jean would scroll through social media, she noticed that there wasn’t anyone with her skin tone who had Alopecia, so she set out to do something about this. “Alopecia isn’t fairly represented. As a beauty influencer and content creator, I’m working very hard to change that. Growing up, I didn’t see anyone in the beauty industry who looked like me,” shared Jean. Her goal is to show people that you don’t need hair to be beautiful. Jean has also noticed the lack of diversity around bald beauty and is using her platform to make a change.

Finding Strength in Alopecia Hair Loss Bullying

Mabel with alopecia
Be proud to show off your bald head. Photo Credit: Mabel

Mabel was first got diagnosed with Alopecia in September of 2014. Her journey was difficult at first since not many people knew about her condition at the time. “I felt like my identity was gone and I didn’t know anyone that had Alopecia. I had to figure out what wigs to buy. It was really depressing it took me a long time to accept that I had Alopecia,” shares Mabel. She wouldn’t draw attention to her wigs, mostly pretending they were hair weaves until she started getting bullied online.

“Someone said something about my wig and I was devastated. I thought no one was questioning me and now here’s a complete stranger on the internet trolling me and making me feel bad,” explains Mabel. While obviously, nobody wants to go through bullying,  Mabel was able to turn this situation around for the better. “I could take a breather and finally be myself and come clean and tell everyone why I wear a wig. I made a big announcement and everyone had no idea I was wearing a wig, says Mabel.” That one comment was able to give Mabel the strength to start sharing her story.

Advocating for Alopecia

Mabel with wig
Try out different hairstyles using wigs.

At the beginning of her journey, Mabel struggled to find people like her. She didn’t have someone she could turn to who understood what it was like to be losing your hair as a young woman. Over time, this inspired her to take action and share her own journey so she could act as a support to other women. “I didn’t really have a support system for a good part of my journey. I didn’t know anyone that looked like me and I didn’t know anyone else that was going through the things I was going through,” shares Mabel. We think it’s incredible that Mabel created a space where people felt comfortable sharing their journeys.

Mabel further explained why it’s so important to get back to those who reach out to her. “Sometimes you’d see influencers and I would reach out but they wouldn’t reach out to me. I always felt like, are they not reaching out to me because I’m not vocal about my Alopecia? I made a point that if anyone were to come to me in a DM I will make sure I get back to them,” she shares. She even says if you choose to shave your head and need support, she’s happy to join in on a Zoom with you while you do it.

Not sure where to start? Check out what these three women did to become comfortable in their own skin again.

1. Get Used to Being Around People While Bald

Oksanna Shulgach’s biggest tip to maintain your confidence is getting used to showing off your bald head around people. Just like any new challenge that takes practice, sometimes you just have to go for it. “Something I did, in the beginning, was going out in public without any head covering on. Oftentimes it was running errands because it wasn’t likely I’d run into someone I know. Just getting used to being around people and having some people do a double-take. The more I did that, the more I became comfortable,” says Shulgach.

2. Stop Overthinking and Embrace It

One of Cayla Harder’s biggest tips for finding confidence while experiencing hair loss is to stop overthinking. We know this may sound easier than done, and it was definitely a journey that took Harder lots of work to achieve, but once you come to that realization, it will truly be life-changing.

Harder describes this realization as “I was so locked into the idea that I was my hair at first. When I didn’t have that, I’m still who I am and I still have all these positive qualities about myself, now  I’m just a little different. Every person you meet has their own problems and insecurities. There could be people that say mean things, but they have their own insecurities they’re dealing with and it doesn’t mean there are people who don’t love the look.”

3. Find a Support System

One of Ebony Jean’s biggest tips for feeling most confident while experiencing hair loss is being surrounded by supportive family and friends who love her. “Starting my YouTube channel in 2017 was a definite confidence booster and sharing my story with others,” says Jean. Whether it be your family and friends or an online community of people going through the same thing as you, it’s important to have people you can lean on.

4. Focus on Self-Love

Another tip Ebony has found to be super important is just embracing herself and focusing on self-love. “I’ve always been shy and insecure regarding this because of how people made me feel, once I revealed my story in 2016, that’s when everything just made sense,” shared Jean. It’s so exciting to hear how once Jean began to show herself love and embrace who she is by telling her story, she was able to find a community where she could use her platform to inspire and educate others.

Many women experience Alopecia and hair loss during their life and it’s so important to know that it doesn’t define your worth or beauty. Oksanna, Cayla, Ebony, and Mabel have all faced their different challenges with hair loss, but what’s most important is they didn’t let it affect their view of themselves.

5. There’s Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Mabel emphasizes how there isn’t one approach that works for everybody when going through their Alopecia journey. “Everyone’s different, see a doctor, change your diet. Sometimes the hair grows back sometimes it doesn’t. Alopecia hits everyone completely different, but you’re not alone.” Many people decide to shave their heads at some point during their Alopecia journey. Mabel emphasized how this isn’t easy to do. Somedays she doesn’t feel anything while other days she’s crying while shaving her head, wondering why she has to go through this. At first, she strived to make her wig look as real as possible, but now she chooses to embrace them and look at her various wigs as a positive aspect.

“Hair does change you. My attitude changes slightly depending on the wig I have. I have a long-flowing wig that’s very ’70s and I feel very demure. The hair does transform you. If I want to have curly one day I can, if I want red hair one day I can. I can change it up and I don’t have to ruin my hair,” explains Mabel.

Even if you’re experiencing hair loss or you choose to sport a fully bald look, it’s still so important to take care fo your scalp. Plus, who doesn’t love a little bit of pampering? Check out some of our favorite scalp products below.

 

Suave Professionals Castor Oil & Mango Butter for Natural Hair and Scalp Oil

It doesn’t always come to mind, but your scalp is just like the skin on the rest of your body. Your skin can get dry from time to time, and so can your scalp. If you’re scalp is feeling particularly dry or flaky, using a scalp oil can help this issue. We love Suave Professionals Castor Oil & Mango Butter for Natural Hair and Scalp Oil because it used castor oil and mango butter to nourish and moisturize your scalp.

Nexxus Scalp Inergy Gentle Exfoliating Scalp Scrub

You exfoliate your body, so why wouldn’t you want to exfoliate your scalp? Nexxus Scalp Inergy Gentle Exfoliating Scalp Scrub is one of our favorite scalp scrubs because it helps remove dead skin while removing impurities. Plus, we also love that this product is formulated with a ProteinFusion blend of wheat protein and ginger root, which helps to strengthen your scalp.

SheaMoisture Wig & Weave Tea Tree & Borage Seed Oil Flyaway & Wrap Mousse

Many women who experience Alopecia wear wigs and try out different looks. Just because you’re wearing a wig, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with styling too. SheaMoisture Wig & Weave Tea Tree & Borage Seed Oil Flyaway & Wrap Mousse is a product that can be used on wigs. It helps tame flyaways and can add volume to a curly look. Plus, we love how it’s a water-based formula that’s infused with Tea Tree Oil, Borage Seed Oil, and Aloe Vera, which all work to smooth straight styles while defining curly looks.

RE-fresh Eucalyptus + Cooling Relief Scalp Detox Spray

RE-fresh Eucalyptus + Cooling Relief Scalp Detox Spray is best for those with oily scalps. This product helps detox and revitalize your scalp. We love how the eucalyptus offers  cooling relief that hydrates your scalp too.

SheaMoisture Wig & Weave Tea Tree & Borage Seed Oil Scalp Soother

Is your scalp feeling tight from wearing a wig often, or just dry in general? SheaMoisture Wig & Weave Tea Tree & Borage Seed Oil Scalp Soother works to eliminate this feeling. This formula uses Tea Tree Oil, Borage Seed Oil, and Aloe Vera to help moisturize and relieve and tightness and tension in your scalp.

Living with Alopecia and accepting baldness isn’t an easy thing to do. Whether you’ve experienced this since you were a child or later into your adult life, everyone deals with their own struggles to find their confidence. Oksanna, Cayla, Ebony, and Mabel have all created communities to share their own journeys and show people that they aren’t alone when experiencing Alopecia.

All Things Hair would like to thank Oksanna, Cayla, Ebony, and Mabel for sharing their stories to bring awareness to Alopecia. 

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